Lou City’s Venue Switch, Nothing New in Sports

by | Nov 6, 2018 | Marc Viquez, News, Soccer, USL |

Louisville City won’t be playing at Slugger Field when it hosts the USL Cup this Thursday night against Phoenix Rising FC; instead, the match will be held at Lynn Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville. The reason for the switch in venues is due to the fact that Slugger Field is being utilized for the 29th annual Festival of Trees and Lights. This isn’t new since there has been a long history of professional sports teams needing a new home during deep playoff runs.

The positive aspect is that Lou City has played previously at Lynn during U.S. Open Cup games; it’s also an actual soccer-specific stadium that seats 5,300 that can be accommodated with temporary bleachers and SRO areas to increase capacity to over 7,000. The club’s average at Lynn for US Open Cup play was 3,355.

“The biggest advantage of Lynn Stadium is definitely the playing surface and overall atmosphere,” said Scott Steward, LCFC Director of Public Relations & Broadcasting. “For a place that will hold a little over 7k including standing room only, it will look and feel more like 11k.”

Lou City is definitely not the first team to have to find an alternative venue during a championship run. There have been other teams in various professional leagues that found themselves looking for another venue in town or nearby to host a playoff game. One would think that a minor league baseball stadium would be available in November, but venues like Slugger Field hosts a list of events from concerts, beer and food festivals, holiday programming, and interscholastic and college events that are booked months in advance and can’t be easily changed.

A similar scenario occurred two-years-ago in the North American Soccer League. The New York Cosmos were unable to host the Soccer Bowl against the Indy XI at its regular season home at Hofstra University and were unable to agree upon a solution for the championship tilt. The team looked into playing the game at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, but additional turf to cover the field would have proven costly for the club that was dealing with financial difficulties at the time.

The Cosmos opted for the 2,220 capacity Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University, much to the chagrin of Indy fans who created the #BiggerThanBelson hashtag on social media. The Cosmos would have the laugh last, winning the championship on penalty kicks. 

Another New York-area soccer club that also had to switch venues were the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) when it neared a possible MLS playoff spot in 2002. Its home venue Giants Stadium would not have been available; fortunately or unfortunately, the team failed to clinch the 8th seed by a single point in the standings. If they had made the playoffs, all home games would have been played at Riverfront Stadium in Newark, N.J., a minor league baseball stadium that had the capacity of 6,200. Spectators could have witnessed future USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard playing on a baseball diamond covered with turf.

Probably the most infamous venue change was during the 1975 NBA Finals when the Golden State Warriors played two home dates at the Cow Palace since the Oakland Coliseum (now Oracle Arena) was booked with the Ice Follies. The switch in venues did not hinder the Warriors as they captured the championship in four games. It’s hard to imagine Steph Curry and Kevin Durant being told to play at the Cow Palace during this past season’s finals?

The 1928 Stanley Cup between the New York Rangers and Montreal Maroons were all played at the Montreal Forum due to the circus being held Madison Square Garden. The circus also forced the San Jose SaberCats to host Arenabowl XXVIII 80 miles north at the Stockton Arena. The Cats lobbied to move the date of the game so that it could be played at the SAP Center, but the league refused, citing its contract to televise the game on ESPN.

This year’s USL Championship game also couldn’t be moved to a different day or time because it will be televised live on ESPNU. One interesting note is that all four teams mentioned eventually won their respective championships. Lou City is also 10-0 all-time at home playoff games heading into Thursday nights championship match.

“Besides capacity, the only other disadvantage is that we have less control over things like parking, facility fees, game management due to UofL having their own set of rules. We’re grateful to be able to work with them though and more than appreciate the opportunity to be able to keep the final here in Louisville”, added Stewart.

Lynn Stadium is named after Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn and opened in 2014 as the home for the UofL soccer program. The natural grass pitch is surrounded by chair back and grass berm seating. According to the website, spectators’ view from each angle of the field is modeled after Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park

Lou City also played in the USL Cup last season when was able to host at Slugger Field to an overflow crowd of 14,500. The team will most likely look back and laugh at the stadium situation in a few years as construction crews are preparing its new soccer-specific stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood of town. The club should not have any future scheduling conflicts when it opens its doors in 2020.

“Outside of the capacity and ticket availability, our fans are excited to be back at Lynn Stadium. We had great success there in the US Open Cup this year and it’s a venue we’re comfortable in and out players absolutely love.”

It has been announced that all tickets for the USL Cup have been sold-out at Lynn Stadium.

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